Some reflections on names and origins of settlements in SVG
Dr. Fraser- Point of View
March 1, 2024
Some reflections on names and origins of settlements in SVG

Reports on the capture of three escaped Grenadian prisoners and the suspected murder of the owners of a catamaran yacht that was found in SVG created some confusion over whether it was found in Wallilabou or Wallibou. This  created an opportunity for me to reflect on the names and origins of some settlements in this country. Some time ago a friend of mine living in Bequia handed me what seemed to have been part of a document that was scanned and given to her by a tourist. It read “Alonso de Hojeda and Juan de la Cosa, both of Spain, Discovered St. Vincent and the Grenadines in the period of June through August 1499. These Islands along with others of the Southern Windwards, first appeared on la Cosa’s famous Mappa Mundi dated 1500, on it they were named Los Agulas, the Eagles (St. Vincent) and Los Hermanos, the brothers, (the Grenadines).

Amerigo Vespucci, as a Member of the Casa de Contatacion de las Indias (Commercial House for the Indies) and Pioloto Major (Pilot Major) was ordered by King Ferdinand on 6 August 1508, to collect the various charts and construct a Uniform Chart, a Padron General (Royal Chart) for the use of all the Mariners. From that time forward several of the Islands were renamed and Los Agulas (St. Vincent) became Sanct Vincente.” There was no indication of the source nor was I able to locate the map mentioned.

There were two 18th century maps of St. Vincent, an early French one and a British one of 1776 following the grant of the Island to them by the Treaty of Paris. Both maps included some indigenous names. The French map included Ouya, le Rabaqua, and Cannonery and others, among them Port de Layou and Ouassigany (Kingstown). The Byres map also had the Byera River, Bayabou. While Barrouallie was not mentioned on the French map, the Byres’s map has it as Barawally, others include Layou or Rutland Bay, Rothia, Kingstown with an indication of its indigenous name Quashagunny. (I have just pulled out a few). In an appendix in Charles Shephard’s AN HISTORICAL ACCOUNT OF THE ISLAND OF SAINT VINCENT, one is able to identify the early plots purchased, many of which became larger estates through further purchases.

As one would expect, during the period of slavery, especially after the exile of the indigenous people, virtually the whole of SVG was made up of estates, with the exception of five towns- Calliaqua, Kingstown, Layou, Barrouallie and Chateaubelair. Georgetown was later added in 1813 following the acquisition of the lands of the Garinagua. Georgetown was actually created from lands given to Colonel Thomas Browne that were to form the Grand Sable estate. The French were the ones who laid out Kingstown with three parallel streets and adjoining ones with a central market area, a pattern that was similar to Barrouallie. What was originally a market square in Barrouallie, became a playing field, that has now been transformed into a ‘playground’. The estates of Keartons, Wallilabou, Mount Wynne, Peter’s Hope and Reversion adjoined Barrouallie with a part of Reversion later incorporated into the town. Barrouallie has for a long time been associated with the Pilot Whale, called locally the Blackfish. It was a big day in Barrouallie when in early April 1939 a resident, Malcolm Llewellyn imported a gun designed for shooting the black fish and had it christened on Easter Monday.

Here are some early indigenous names and their subsequent English names – Massarica (Union); Upper Masarika Valley (Greiggs); Camsacarabou (Sans Souci); Ouarawarou- shown on the French and English maps as Point Espagnol; Massiraca (Mesopotamia); and Couboumarou (Stubbs). The name Point Espagnol seems to suggest a Spanish presence at some time, but there is no evidence of that.

The many villages that exist today emerged after emancipation, many of them named after estates, since they were either purchased or originally leased from the estates. In 1837, Cowdrey adjoining Layou was purchased from Cowdrey and merged later into Layou. In 1837 too, a portion of the Kingstown Park Estate was sold and incorporated into Kingstown. By 1845 there were 44 villages including Victoria village that was among the earliest to have emerged. Other early villages were Mesopotamia; Evesham; Cariere; Riley; Chapmans; Diamond; Sans Souci; Lauders; Dickson’s; Overland; and Lowmans Leeward. The 1861 census also listed Choppins; Gomea; Reily; Sion Hill; Richmond Hill; and Stubbs. By the 1890s there was still a desperate need for land especially since the sugar industry was in serious decline and the estates were unable to employ many persons. By 1899 following the recommendations of a Royal Commission of 1897 the government was forced to purchase estates under a Peasant Land Settlement scheme and to sell small plots to labourers under an arrangement that only gave them titles when they had completed payment. These were mainly in the Leeward area and involved Convent; Spring; Grove; Belleisle, and New Works Hermitage; Troumaca; Rosebank; Belmont; and Rose Hall. Richmond Hill was also part of this scheme as was New Adelphi and Park Hill. The scheme was extended particularly after the 1902 eruption with areas reserved at Questelles, Clare Valley and parts of Camden Park to house refugees. Union Island was acquired in 1910. Two thousand persons existed in Clifton and Ashton working for a proprietor who so angered them that they were forced to present a petition calling on government to acquire the island and even suggesting its annexation to Grenada. Over the years more villages were formed from lands purchased from the estates. The following places in Bequia emerged from the estates- Belmont; Friendship; Hope; Industry; Mount Pleasant; Paget Farm; Reform; Spring; and Union. Mustique was originally two estates- Cheltenham and Adelphi. Mrs Snagg of the Carenage estate controlled Canouan. Land Settlement schemes over the years have led to the dismantling of the plantations that dominated the landscape and controlled the economy and society.

  • Dr Adrian Fraser is a social commentator and historian